#Metoo: Catholic Body to begin probe against accused priests in Meghalaya sexual abuse case

The victim had alleged that she was abused for several years by the two Catholic priests.

Five days ago a tribal Khasi woman from Meghalaya had put up a Facebook post accusing two clergies of Shillong Church of sexually abusing her since she was five years old. The woman who is now 40, had named in her post two clergies, Br Francis Gale of the Christian Brothers and Br Muscat of Don Bosco group. According to her Facebook post, Gale, who is now posted in West Bengal, was serving at St Edmund’s School in Shillong at that time. The second clergy whom she accused of sexual abuse is Brother Muscat of the Salesians of Don Bosco, another society under the Catholic Church. He is posted in Shillong. The Don Bosco society reportedly refused to speak on the matter.

The Congregation of Christian Brothers in India, a religious community within the Catholic church, have reportedly said that they would initiate an inquiry in the matter. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the CCBI said the “Christian Brothers stand in solidarity with and in support of any survivor of sexual abuse”.

The Professional Ethics Commission of the community assured that action will be taken against accused Brother Francis Gale if found guilty.“A due procedure will be initiated as laid out in our policy – safeguarding children and vulnerable adults – to take this serious allegation forward towards arriving at the truth and assisting the survivor with necessary help to attain due closure,” the Commission’s society protection officer J. Johnson said in a statement here.

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As per reports, the church body in Meghalaya has ordered an internal inquiry after allegations of sexual harassment were made against the clergies.

Recollecting the ways in which the two accused sexually abused her, the victim wrote in her Facebook post, “He was a trusted ‘friend’ to my family and held in great esteem as a ‘religious man’. I was sent to him for tuition — I was 5 when he first showed me his penis and asked me to touch it. I told a family member and adult I trusted most then, and I was slapped and told never to make up such stories”.

She shared how the trauma of sexual abuse made her attempt suicide thrice and on two such occasions, she was hospitalised. However, she has reportedly stated that she did not want to take the legal recourse. “This for me is my closure – to come out, without shame, and share the crimes that were done against me”, she said.

The State Commission for Women has stated that a formal complaint needs to be filed to ensure a thorough investigation. “It would be advisable if the victim files a formal FIR so that the legal framework can be activated to its optimum,” the Chairperson of Meghalaya State Commission for Women has reportedly stated. Meena Kharkonghor, the chairperson of Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has stated to Hindustan Times that since POCSO Act was not in existence at the time of the alleged crime, only the relevant sections of IPC will be applicable if the victim considers filing an FIR.

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